Sunday, 18 September 2016

Earthquakes and Everything

Hot on the heels of the solar eclipse, we had a 5.7 earthquake last week. 

I was sitting on my porch at 2:27 in the afternoon when it began. We get them from time to time here. There's a sound like a truck going down a cobbled road, only there aren't any cobbles. Then the earth turns to water and everything wobbles and rattles. I had my laptop on my knee and legged it up the driveway, then remembered my keys were on the table, so turned back around, dived, reluctantly, under the porch and ran back up the drive again. If the house did collapse, I'd need the keys to get out of my compound. 

I'm one of these freaks who actually really enjoys light earthquakes. It's an incredibly surreal sensation. It's like standing on one of those moving floors in a fun house. The only time I was really fearful was in Cyangugu, during an aftershock of the big 2008 quake

Afterwards, I opened my gate. All of my neighbours were standing around. We looked at each other and just started laughing. Twitter was alive with people joking about whether they were running then tweeting, tweeting then running, or running and tweeting at the same time.

Sadly, reports say it  killed 11 and injured 100 at the epicentre in Tanzania.

What with the solar eclipse, now an earthquake, I think we'd best keep an eye on Lake Kivu!

Road to Kabuga

This is likely to be a long post. I realise I haven't made one in a while, so will endeavour to catch up.

I'm afraid I had a bit of a blue patch a couple of weeks back, and it's taken me a while to recover. 

I took a trip out to Kabuga to try to find Christiane's grave. I attempted to go in April with my friend Jo, but our car broke down and it wouldn't stop raining. Jo asked me to wait for her and we would go together, but she's really busy at the moment and I didn't want it to be a year since Christiane's death before I visited. To be honest, I wanted to go on my own so that I could just sit and have a chat to her. It is still very hard for me to think that she is not in Kibuye, running her hotel.

My friend Vincent sent a taxi for me. I didn't call my usual guy, again because I preferred to be alone. I bought a bottle of her favourite beer, took a couple of glasses. I planned just to find the grave and sit for a bit. 

I got a little less smiley as we approached Kabuga, wondering if she knew as she was being driven along that road that she would not be going back. There is a palliative care hospice there, and I stopped to ask where she was buried. We knew where the cemetery was, but not where the grave would be. I didn't realise there was an office at the cemetery, and thought it best to get directions before going.

Unfortunately, as I entered the place, I started to cry and couldn't stop. It's just a brick quad, all the doors open, people in wheelchairs and beds in various states of dying. I stepped into an office to avoid people seeing me - you really don't cry in Rwanda. It's not good form.

A really lovely nurse came to talk to me, and I explained that I was looking for my friend. She remembered Christiane. Apparently she had been there only five days. It was quick.

You don't realise how cultural certain turns of phrase are. I asked 'Was she in pain?' 

I don't know if I was more horrified or more grateful at the blunt honesty of the reply: 'She had cancer, of course she was in pain.'

When we finally made it to the graveyard I was losing it slightly. In my mind I was expecting a quaint English churchyard with sprawling graves and angels and shady trees...

It was certainly sprawling, but it was like a war cemetery. Hundreds, possibly thousands of graves, all absolutely identical: white marble-tiled boxes with headstones, baking in the midday sun, just enough room to walk between them. It was a regiment of graves.

I went into the office, where I was informed that I was too late. If I wanted to visit to lay flowers, I had to come before 2pm. Other burials took place after that and I was not allowed to be there. But they did inform me that Christiane was grave number 1052, at the bottom of the hill.

The idea that Christiane was now reduced to a number, and that I was too late to see her, sort of did for me. I realised, looking at the uniform graves and the lack of shade that even had I been allowed to visit, I could not have sat and shared a drink with her. Flowers, people would understand, but I doubt they would have understood the beer thing. 

I came to the conclusion that perhaps, what with the car braking down and visiting times, Christiane maybe didn't want me to go. 

It really was a bit traumatic to see all of that. I just kept thinking about her life, arriving here after surviving one bout of cancer, only to come within weeks of achieving her dream of building an eco-hotel, and then to fade so quickly.

I cried the entire way home. Worst day that poor taxi driver's had in a while, but I couldn't help myself. I got home, lit a candle for her and sat and had that beer and that conversation. I won't be going back to the cemetery. There's nothing of my friend there.

Anyway, that's why I haven't felt like posting much recently. Been watching a lot of movies and reading a lot of books. I'm over it now.

So, in happier news...

My lovely cleaner, Shania, who does amazing bed folding, has just been accepted to study Political Science at Huye (Butare) University. I'm really sad to see her go, but happy she's got in. As a total surprise, she turned up with her sister, Alice, and - as a parting gift - cleaned my house from top to bottom! Wouldn't accept payment. I was so touched I turned tearful again. Alice is going to clean for me now.

I've been given a guitar. Needs new strings and tuning. I had a writing client who occasionally bought me nice dinners. He's gone back to the UK now and had a farewell house party - then gave most of the house to people. It was this or a sleeping bag. I think I'm going to turn my smallest spare room into a music room. The acoustics are pretty good in there.

Had a lovely house party of my own, just with my friend Pieter. He's a dutch actor who has been all around the world as a flight attendant. He has some wonderful stories. He's also just had his visa renewed, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed for mine. I cooked a big pasta dish and we sat talking late into the night.

What else has been happening?

Well, I've just finished building a website for my friend Sande. He has a massage therapy centre in Kagugu. He's also looking to set up an arts centre nearer to town. He's rented the building and has a group of artists living there, but the centre needs refurbishing, and the garden sorting out. I'm helping out with the strategic plan and business side of things in my spare time.

We had an impromptu sing along with guitars and drums, then I swung past Inzora for an ice cold smoothie and cake.

Last week I held a strategy meeting at the wellness centre.

Then went for a chat with Imagine We, a Rwandan publishing house. 

They're really lovely there, and I'm hoping to run some workshops with them.

I now have two kittens who visit me each night for food and company. They're both very timid and won't get close, but I'm working on that.

So, things are going well. Plenty to keep me occupied.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Solar Eclipse

Pinch, punch, first day of the month and what a stunning way to wake up!

Got out of bed, had a shower, opened the curtains and instantly knew something was a little odd. Walked to the end of the drive and couldn't work out what was going on. The sun was bright overhead but the light seemed heavy. 

Discovered on t'internet that we were in the middle of a partial solar eclipse. 

Ran back out with my phone and managed to get a couple of shots right at the high point. Such a wonderful surprise.